Where is God in All This?

MartinHandfordWally&Friends” by http://waldo.wikia.com. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

When our son was younger, he enjoyed the ‘Where’s Wally’ books.  The premise being to look at a picture full of people and objects, and try to find the one person, Wally, in it.  This often meant a long time searching trying to see where he was.  To quote a phrase, he was “hidden in plain sight”, always there, but not always easy to spot.

Sometimes God seems like that.  We’re told he’s there, but we don’t always notice him, can’t always see him.  In fairness, we’re not even always looking.

It can be easy to jolly along through life, we don’t always stop and think.  We are busy surviving and dealing with all life throws at us – good, bad and indifferent.  But every so often something happens to make us really stop and think about some of the bigger questions.  Sometimes these are joyful events, like the birth of a child or the wonder of creation; often they are more catastrophic, personally or in the wider community.

Whether coming from a faith stance or not, the question comes -

where is God?

Perhaps this crops up most when there is a disaster, then everyone wants to know how God can let this happen.  The age-old question, if God is all loving and all-powerful – how, why?

Well, to my mind, God wouldn’t be much of a God if he was only there in the nice bits of life.  Anyone can rock up when times are going well.  Everyone wants to be your friend and companion.  You discover who your true friends are when life is a struggle.  The same is true of God.  Just because times are tough, doesn’t mean he has disappeared.  He is there with us in the dross, the difficulties, in the traumas, when we feel we can’t go on any longer – and that is when he shows his true love and worth.  He is with us in giving us his strength; but he is with us also in those around us, those who carry us and support us when we can no longer do it for ourselves.  God is there, and he carries on being there – when we know we need him, and when we don’t realize it.

I return again and again to this passage, as regular readers will know:

Habakkuk 3:17-19 (NIVUK)

17 Though the fig-tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the sheepfold
    and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Saviour.

19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
    he enables me to tread on the heights.

God is God, not just of the good, bountiful times, but the times of desolation and emptiness too.  He is the strength and life when nothing else is.  The God amongst the barrenness.  The God who still is there when everything else fails.  A God who has been there himself.

This prayer from the Methodist Prayer Handbook, sums up some of this, the God of struggle and pain:

Loving, living God,
you come to our world as light shining in our darkness.
Through Jesus, your Son, our Saviour, you offer our world
the bright burning flame of hope
which neither fear, nor doubt,
neither cynicism, nor despair can ever extinguish.
Yet that hope which is ours is no rose-tinted optimism:
it is a hope forged in the pain of the servant hanging on a cross.
Because of his life, death and resurrection we live in hope today.
So, Lord, this day may we live in that hope,
and work that the hope which is ours may be made real for all. Amen.

James Booth, Liverpool District Chair

Where is God?  Right here, in the middle of whatever is happening in your life and mine, crying, holding, strengthening, lifting, just being with – wherever and however we need him.

And that ladies and gentlemen is my 1000th blog.  I decided to use it to “preach the one sermon”.  It’s a theme I often return to, but the one that comes from my heart and my life.  It’s not the best of me that I might want it to be, but life is not in that place at the moment, so it comes very much from where I am and how I am.

Like all I do, it is offered to you and to God to take and use as wished (and that isn’t meant to be as pious as it sounds – sorry!)  That’s all any of us can do at any time – come to God from where we are, because he is there with us too.

So I can only finish with the hymn that sums it all up, even if I use if often

 

What Do I Owe

What do I owe?
To the world?
Governments?
Those who care?
On behalf of those who can’t pay?

I like a bargain,
want the most for the least;
but I want to know
I will be cared for,
when I,
or anyone else,
needs it.

What do I owe?

What will I give for justice,
freedom,
security,
not just for me,
but for all.

What do I owe?

Nothing is free,
it has to be paid for
by someone,
somewhere.
My duty is to pay
my dues.

What do I owe?

I will give
what I owe,
willingly,
generously,
freely.

What do I owe?

What do I owe God,
freely,
lovingly,
generously?
In response to all he has given me.

What do I owe?

Matthew 22:15-22 (CEV)

Paying Taxes

15 The Pharisees got together and planned how they could trick Jesus into saying something wrong. 16 They sent some of their followers and some of Herod’s followers to say to him, “Teacher, we know that you are honest. You teach the truth about what God wants people to do. And you treat everyone with the same respect, no matter who they are.17 Tell us what you think! Should we pay taxes to the Emperor or not?”

18 Jesus knew their evil thoughts and said, “Why are you trying to test me? You show-offs! 19 Let me see one of the coins used for paying taxes.” They brought him a silver coin,20 and he asked, “Whose picture and name are on it?”

21 “The Emperor’s,” they answered.

Then Jesus told them, “Give the Emperor what belongs to him and give God what belongs to God.” 22 His answer surprised them so much that they walked away.

Thank God

When you think about the people around you, those who are part of your community, whose lives interact with yours, what is your overwhelming feeling?

The writer to the Thessalonians is thankful.

1 Thessalonians 1:1-10 (CEV)

From Paul, Silas, and Timothy.

To the church in Thessalonica, the people of God the Father and of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I pray that God will be kind to you and will bless you with peace!

We thank God for you and always mention you in our prayers. Each time we pray, we tell God our Father about your faith and loving work and about your firm hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Thessalonians’ Faith and Example

My dear friends, God loves you, and we know he has chosen you to be his people. When we told you the good news, it was with the power and assurance that come from the Holy Spirit, and not simply with words. You knew what kind of people we were and how we helped you. So, when you accepted the message, you followed our example and the example of the Lord. You suffered, but the Holy Spirit made you glad.

You became an example for all the Lord’s followers in Macedonia and Achaia. And because of you, the Lord’s message has spread everywhere in those regions. Now the news of your faith in God is known all over the world, and we don’t have to say a thing about it. Everyone is talking about how you welcomed us and how you turned away from idols to serve the true and living God. 10 They also tell how you are waiting for his Son Jesus to come from heaven. God raised him from death, and on the day of judgment Jesus will save us from God’s anger.

Paul is in admiration of all they do.  These people are a living example of living God’s way; they have been instrumental in changing other people’s live for the good;  they live out their hope.  He wants them to know that, but he also wants God to know how grateful he is.  And his thanksgiving for them leads him to prayer for them.

It can be all too easy to take people for granted, to fail to see, or forget, the good they are doing.  We can be distracted by irritations, petty jealousies or our own concerns, that in our own minds the good disappears.  We do them, and God, a disservice.

Perhaps it is time to look again at the place we are, where we live out our lives and our faith.  Who is there, doing sterling work?  Do we notice?  Take it for granted?  Or assume it is our right that these things are done?  Do we thank them?  Do we thank God?  Do we pray for them?

Perhaps it’s time I did.

I’m reminded of the words of Charles Wesley’s hymn, All Praise to our Redeeming Lord:

He bids us build each other up;
And, gathered into one,
To our high calling’s glorious hope
We hand in hand go on